By Clara Santucci
Exercise Physiologist

The U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon – it’s almost here! All the weeks, months, and years of training for this race come down to this day. I’ve kept busy these last few days before the big race, so here is a behind-the-scenes look at my preparations.

Wednesday – This was travel day. After a short training run, I flew out of Pittsburgh in the morning and landed in sunny, warm Los Angeles, Calif., around 2:30 p.m. In the LAX Airport, I met a driver from the marathon who took me to the host hotel, where I checked into a shared room with another athlete. I went for another light run, ate dinner, and settled in for the night. 

Here is my view of the Hollywood sign from my hotel window.

Thursday – This was the busiest day before the race. I slept until 6 a.m. (9 a.m. Eastern Time) to get on my race day routine quickly. I went for an easy training run in Expo Park by the Olympic Coliseum, where part of the course will be run. This was a nice refresher of what the course looks like. It’s quite flat but has a lot of turns, adding a technical aspect to racing. I also paid attention to the feel of the weather, the wind, and the position of the sun at race time to get an idea of the conditions I’ll be running in.

After returning to the hotel, I had a massage from one of the race masseuses, followed by a shower and lunch. I spent the afternoon in my room with my feet up, hydrating and mentally preparing for the race. This is my favorite part of the few days before the race. It’s the calm before the storm. I gather my thoughts, mentally run through the race, reflecting on the work I’ve done, my own will to succeed, and past learning experiences.

After a short second run, I had some media interviews. And there’s always potential for an unannounced drug test. Then I went to dinner with Team Saucony – my shoe company sponsor for the past couple years. It was a fun time to catch up with shoe experts, runners, and their guests. After returning to my room, I got the last night of good sleep. (No one sleeps well the night before the race!)

Friday – Today will be as low key as I can make it. I’ll go through my morning routine of eating breakfast, showering, and running before preparing my marathon fluid bottles.

Each runner will have the option to have nine fluid bottles put on the course with whatever they like in them. Mine will have an electrolyte/carb mix in water. I’ll decorate them so that I can spot my bottle quickly among the others and grab it as I run by. These bottles will be turned into marathon officials, who will be in charge of putting them in the correct positions on tables along the course.

Friday will also include a technical meeting. Sitting through this meeting highlights the details that go into a marathon; it’s actually very technical! After the meeting, we’ll receive our bib numbers with our names, and we’ll pin these to our race uniforms. In these numbers are timing chips that will help track the progress of each runner during the race and determine official finishing times. It’s a neat technology and also helps keep people from cutting the course short!

Finally, after this meeting, runners will have their last supper, retire to their rooms, set out uniforms and warm-ups, and whatever else might be needed on race morning. Then it’s into bed for a restless night of almost sleep.

Saturday morning – The athletes who have made it this far will find themselves on the start line, hands on our hearts for the National Anthem, and ready to run until our bodies are worn out and we have nothing left but our willpower to keep going forward. The three to cross the finish line first will go on to the Olympics, and a couple hundred more will hopefully walk away with an amazing experience running with the best in the county. It’s a tough journey, and no one is immune to the challenges that lie on the journey to finish line. But the experience of crossing the line after giving all your body and heart to this race is worth it. I’m excited to experience it all.

WVU Medicine is proud to partner with Clara Santucci as she chases her dream of joining the U.S. Olympic Team in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. For more information, visit